King Juan Carlos is slowly but surely returning to his duties while recovering from his recent hip replacement surgery. It also appears that the controversy over his elephant hunting trip is cooling down.
This week His Majesty met with the foreign minister for the United Arab Emirates, High Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at the Zarzuela Palace. The UAE is inaugurating a new embassy in Spain and the King enjoys good relations with Middle Eastern royals.
Don Juan Carlos also met with Víctor García de la Concha, the new director of the Cervantes Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes the study and teaching of the Spanish language.
El Pais, one of Spain’s leading newspapers and often used as a source for this blog, has published several articles analyzing the Royal Family’s situation in Spain.
Many influential politicians and business leaders, the paper says several factors are affecting the Monarchy’s popularity — King Juan Carlos’ health, his recent trip to Botswana, his son-in-law facing corruption allegations, the economy, leftist movements and the fact that many young people don’t remember the the institution’s importance in establishing democracy.
One article looks at the King’s situation, another reviews Prince Felipe’s role and another reviews the Queen’s recent actions, including only spending a few minutes visiting her husband at the hospital.
Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said he would have told the King not to go hunting in Africa. The comments come amid a debate over how much control the elected Government should have over the Monarch’s activities.
Still, despite other leftist comments against the Monarchy, the Socialist leadership is staying loyal.
Meanwhile, as planned, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia stepped in for Don Juan Carlos in giving out this year’s Cervantes prize at the University of Alcalá. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá in the 1500’s.
The press and the Spanish public are making much of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia presiding over the traditional lunch at the Royal Palace in Madrid yesterday to commemorate the Cervantes Prize and its winner.
While the King and Queen usually lead the event, recent events have contributed to the Prince and Princess of Asturias taking over, at least for this year.
Prince Felipe called it “special and exceptional” for their Majesties to be missing the event, but also the prize’s winner, Chilean Poet Nicanor Parra, because of delicate health.
The Cervantes award, named after the author of Don Quixote, includes a 125,000 euro check. It is among the most prestigious literary prizes in the world.
Their Royal Highnesses will also preside over the award ceremony at the University of Alcalá on Monday.
Separately, it appears that Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo, is presiding over more events on behalf of the Royal Family. This week she accompanied her mother, the Queen, to the MAPFRE Foundation awards. MAPFRE is a Spanish international insurance company.
She also presided over the first Paralympic Evening in advance of the London games. Infanta Elena is the president of honor of the Spanish committee.
The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund is expressing concern and requesting a meeting with the Royal Household over King Juan Carlos’ elephant hunting trip to Africa, where he suffered a hip fracture last week.
WWF outlined its concerns in a letter released today, as politicians and Spaniards debated the King’s trip, which many see as lavish and insensitive to the county’s economic woes. WWF in Spain questions whether the King can continue as the group’s honorary president.
Juan Carlos del Olmo, the group’s secretary general, said there was an “enormous backlash” to the King’s hunting activities, even if they were legal. He said people around the world were expressing “energetic protest.”
Meanwhile, Queen Sofia visited her husband today. She said he was showing “phenomenal progress.” Doctors said he may be out of the hospital soon.
His recovery, however, means that he won’t be able to make it abroad to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years as British monarch.
In the chapter titled An Engaging Monarchy, John Hooper, author of The New Spaniards, provides some insight into why the Bourbon royals are different or seen as different compared to other ruling monarchies. Hooper described a memorial service after the 2004 Madrid terrorist attacks:
When the service ended, the dignitaries prepared to file out, led by the Spanish royal family. But instead of leaving the relatives alone with their grief and incomprehension, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, accompanied by their children and their children’s partners, moved from pew to pew consoling the bereaved.
They clasped the hands of the bereaved, hugged their shoulders and kissed their cheeks. The King embraced a stooped old lady, and bent down to listen to her story. The Queen wept openly. Princess Cristina too sobbed as she hugged mourners.
It is inconceivable that any of the Windsors, for example, would have put their dignity at risk in that fashion.